Considered to be one of the most significant cultural centers in Europe, Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, is rich in heritage and diversity. The population of approximately 756,000 has access to a wide array of arts, including some of the best museums and theaters in the region. With its seamless synthesis of historical and modern architecture, and beautiful beaches, lakes and canals, Amsterdam is an enviable place to live.
Spiritually speaking, it may also be one of the most challenging. Since WWII, immigration has introduced many different faiths. And although, technically, the largest religion in Amsterdam is Christianity (17 percent, most of which are Roman Catholic), Islam is growing fast (currently at 14 percent). A 2000 survey, however, found that most people—60 percent—have no religious affiliation whatsoever.
It is to this city that Adam and Sarah Hartel, Foursquare Missions International (FMI) missionaries to Amsterdam, came in June 2010. Adam and Sarah, both in their 30s, have three young children.
Amsterdam is a stage-one city in Foursquare’s Four-Stage Development Model. Stage one is the “initiate/evangelizing” stage, where people are coming to Christ and disciples are being reproduced. The Netherlands overall is a stage-four nation, the “send/extending” stage, where missionaries are sent to other countries. Statistics for 2010 record 43 Foursquare churches and meeting places in the Netherlands, and 4,357 members.
Describe your passion for the people of Amsterdam.
Adam: The world comes to Amsterdam, and Amsterdam goes to the world. One of the greatest things about this city is its beautiful mix of diversity. It is known as a center for art and culture, and the people here are very proud of that.
Together with the Foursquare church in Amsterdam North, we want to pioneer a “missional cafe.” Our desire is that the relationships formed there will become a bridge for connecting people to Christ and into fellowship with His family. Together, we are interested in serving the community through acts of kindness and artistic expression.
Because of the diversity that is created in the communities in Amsterdam, endless possibilities to connect with people and create new things are possible! Ultimately it is about what can be done together.
What would you like people in the U.S. to know about Amsterdam?
Adam: Amsterdam was a melting pot of culture, religion, ethnicity, art and commerce centuries before the U.S. was an established nation. A strong atmosphere of tolerance has been cultivated that actually gave Amsterdam a “postmodern” feel before the modern era even began.
Many people associate this city with legalized soft drugs and prostitution, but that is not the primary “face” of the city. The people of Amsterdam are courageous, determined and merciful. Some could interpret them as “liberal” or against the church, but we believe that their love for truth, beauty and kindness will draw them to know the love of God and be transformed by Him.
Have any short-term missions teams come from the U.S. to help out?
Adam: Last year, we received two teams from Pasadena Foursquare Church (our sending church) in Pasadena, Calif., and one team from the Foursquare church in Kristiansand, Norway (which we helped to plant in 2002). Another team from Pasadena, and some youth from the Foursquare church in Parnu, Estonia, were planned for summer 2011.
What do you see God doing as you look to the future?
Adam: God is reaffirming Himself to us, His church, as the Lord of the Harvest. In a time when there is great economic and political uncertainty, He is stripping away the many idols that we can create out of convenience, and inviting us to be totally dependent on Him for the cause to which He has called us.
Ultimately, budgets, power, influence, a good argument, safety and security are not the things that validate and release ministry. God is calling us to be dependent on the Holy Spirit in ways we never have been before, and to have faith that He will cross the necessary barriers to draw more people to be Christ-followers.
This will happen as we bring the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit with us outside the structures of the church, and take the risk to pray for or prophesy to someone on the bus or in the market. For our part, we want to follow God in this, and be catalysts for others to do the same—to become local missionaries in their own communities.
We have plans to start an art cafe/community center, and we see that God is greatly accelerating things as He guides our steps. We are now beginning the process of renting a building on IJburg (a manmade island that is a part of Amsterdam) to do this. IJburg is an instant urbanization project started by Amsterdam six years ago; now there are about 18,000 people living there. This building presents a great resource to have an ongoing presence in that community, and to build “human bridges” for the gospel.
We also have a location in Amsterdam North that is rented by the local church. We have begun community events there (e.g., art gallery, youth cafe, ladies meetings, kids club, computer repair). We want to be catalysts to draw local believers in to that location, to use it as a means of adding value to the community and sharing the love of Christ with their neighbors.
How to Pray for the Hartels:
Adam: Pray for people from the Foursquare churches here to reach out into their communities and be willing to give their personal time to creating a “bridge” between the church and their communities.
We are planning several ministry/missional events this year. Please join us in praying that the permits needed for the events will be granted, that there will be enough local help from the Foursquare churches to make all of the events happen, and that we will be able to connect with the people we are ministering to.
Amsterdam is a city with a lot of individualism and isolation, and many people are overwhelmed with the challenges of life. Pray that, as the believers in this city are ministering and living our lives, that we will be able to interact with people in a way that is personal and Holy Spirit-led.
Our two older children have been in Dutch school since September, and they are doing excellently. My wife and I are learning the Dutch language through language lessons as well as trying to make an effort to speak some every day outside our home. We are making good progress, but we ask for prayer that the language acquisition comes at a good pace.
We need to increase our monthly support to make a more stable, long-term living situation for us in Amsterdam. Please pray that the necessary funds needed would be provided.
How You Can Bless the Hartels:
Our Foursquare missionaries are always encouraged by and grateful for any prayers and correspondence they receive. Whether it’s a gift sent on a holiday, or simply a letter or note of encouragement, you can make a difference by expressing your support in a practical way.
Adam and Sarah can be reached via their blog, www.hartel.com, or by writing to them at the following address:
Adam and Sarah Hartel
1032 EC Amsterdam, Netherlands
Interview conducted by: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles